Mark Bridge writes:
The TV in the bedroom switches on. “It’s 6.45am. Good morning, Mark. Here are your news headlines for Tuesday 14th June 2016.”
The announcer sounds remarkably like Holly Aird, which is hardly surprising because the actor has licensed her voice to the Skype software in my television.
“Holly, video call, please. James”.
It’s not a particularly new TV, so I make sure I’m in front of the Kinect bar when I speak. The main television downstairs has the familiar three-sensor Microsoft layout built in, but the bedroom TV is plugged into a Kinect 2. My avatar appears on-screen; its torso is mirroring my movements and my appearance, except that it’s clean-shaven and wearing a suit.
James is apparently not in the office. The blurred background I see on my TV suggests his iPhone X is concentrating on James’s face rather than the whole picture. He’s clearly not yet upgraded to the premium bandwidth service offered by the recently merged Apple/Orange partnership...
Okay, okay. Entirely fictional. I’m no Cory Doctorow. And I’m no futurist. But the merger of Microsoft and Skype has got me thinking. This isn’t - as Tomi Ahonen recently pointed out - about the merged company taking on mobile network operators by incorporating a voice-over-IP service with Windows Phone 7. Anyway, before too long everything’ll be VoIP on 4G. I’d say it’s more about the merged company taking on all communications. World domination.
After all, the Microsoft that many of us grew up with appeared to be ubiquitous. Adding Skype to the Microsoft family isn’t simply a commercial decision - it’s a marketing decision. It may even be Microsoft’s new loss-leader.
Incorporating Skype with Microsoft Outlook might be an internal political battle - but it’s possible. Skype’s already created an Outlook toolbar. Putting Skype technology in Lync is even more likely. How about Skype on Xbox? Then there’s Skype on Mac, Skype on Linux, Skype on Android, Skype on iPhone, Skype on Symbian, Skype on TV...
Yes, the deal could still go wrong. Yes, the current focus on Skype could help a competitor gain traction. But if I were Google, I’d be a bit worried. And that’s probably a good indicator this wasn’t the poor deal many people think.